Farmers must comply with stricter EU fertilizer rules earlier; Some farmers furious
Stricter rules about fertilizer use will be introduced sooner than Agriculture Minister Piet Adema had intended. The minister had to back down from the promise he made after he was put under heavy pressure by the European Commission. If these fertilizer plans come to fruition nine months earlier than expected, then all hell will break loose and new protests will follow, said Farmers Defense Force chair Mark van den Oever.
Last year, the Cabinet cut a deal with Brussels that the exemption afforded Dutch farmers allowing them to spread more manure than in other countries would be gradually phased out. This derogation will come to an end in 2026. Adema announced at the beginning of December that a transition year would first be implemented for some aspects of the change.
The European Commission was displeased by the proposed transition year. Shortly after the minister presented his plan, the Commission announced that it the agreement with the Cabinet was for the measures to take effect on January 1, 2023, and not a year later. Brussels demanded that Adema scrap the transition year. The Commission threatened to put an immediate end to the derogation if the Netherlands continued with the transition year where few changes are made.
Minister Adema said he wanted to introduce the rules, but wanted to take "agricultural practices" into account. According to him, the Tweede Kamer had also asked for this, he said on Friday after the weekly meeting of Dutch Cabinet ministers.
Adema acknowledged that the Netherlands may have cut corners to try and mitigate the consequences of European rules on Dutch farmers, as the Cabinet has often done with regard to nitrogen emissions rules. His colleague Christianne van der Wal, the minister responsible for nature and nitrogen issues, already noted during a debate in November that the European Commission is fed up with Dutch politicians seeking short cuts. "They don't believe us anymore," she warned at the time.
The stricter fertilizer rules will now be introduced as of March 1, Adema said. Nothing will change for "a lot of farmers," he stated. For example, a number of farmers will have to construct buffer strips along ditches where crops can be grown without fertilizer. "That means there will be a somewhat lower yield there." The minister cannot yet say how many farmers this will affect.
"I have read furious reactions from farmers in our chat groups. It seems as if Minister of Agriculture Piet Adema is against agriculture. Adema's plans are vague, so we just have to see what he means exactly," said Van den Oever in an initial reaction.
Bart Kemps of Agractie could not yet say anything about protests, but he called Adema's decision "another new dent." Kemps expects a "tough conversation" on Monday when his organization is back at the bargaining table with the minister. "Things have to be resolved in the short term, otherwise an agricultural agreement has no chance."
"I understand very well that it is really a very negative day for many farmers, that they are hearing this again. And that is a pity," said the minister. He has no intention of resigning from the Cabinet. "I have just started and I am extremely motivated to work with the agricultural sector to achieve a good future for agriculture." He had rushed back from Berlin especially for this meeting.
Reporting by ANP